Given the range of possibilities, planning a dream trip of two months or more can be bewildering. Whether you’ve got two, six, 12 or 18 months to travel, prevent the journey from becoming a nightmare of forgotten visas, missed flights and inflexible itineraries with this handy guide, packed with potential routes and practical tips to help you make the most of your precious time.

If you have two months to travel…

Two months is enough time to explore one continent. That might mean traveling overland across Africa from Cairo to Cape Town (stopping to search for mountain gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda and camp in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro), or seeing South America’s greatest hits, from Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines to the Galápagos Islands.

If you haven’t been to Europe, consider a grand tour of its great cities; excellent transport links everywhere from Amsterdam to Zagreb, making the continent a perfect match for the less experienced traveler. Alternatively, if you're looking to escape the cold of winter at home, consider a trip to steamy Southeast Asia, which is also a great choice for budget travelers.

Two months is also an ideal timeframe for a North American road trip – rent a car and circle the states and eastern Canada in eight weeks.

How to plan a round-the-world trip

A woman plotting a route on a map
Six months may require a little more planning, but leave room for spontaneity © sergey causelove / Shutterstock

If you have six months to travel…

You can cross a couple of continents on an overland journey. Pioneered in the mid-1950s, the "hippie trail" is an iconic route that crosses Europe to the Middle East and continues to Nepal, India and the Far East. Conflict in the Middle East has made the trail more complicated than it used to be, but it’s still possible to cover most of the route safely.

Kick-off in London or Paris and head towards Istanbul – tracing the same route as the famed Orient Express. Zigzagging your way to Turkey, you’ll take in the canals of Amsterdam, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Romania’s Bran Castle and much more. Invest in an Interrail pass for a cheap and flexible all-in-one ticket that’ll help you happily hop trains across Europe.

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The ghats of Varanasi seen from the Ganges River
Holy Varanasi awaits at the end of the 'hippie trail' © Roop_Dey / Shutterstock

The classic route splinters off after Istanbul, either heading north through Tehran and Lahore on to India and Nepal or to Syria, Jordan, Iran and Pakistan (a route that many governments advise against today because of safety concerns and political tensions). The route to Nepal can be done in a minimum of six to eight weeks. Once there, hike in the Himalayas, then drop down into India for another three to four weeks, visiting the legendary fortresses of Rajasthan, the Taj Mahal and holy Varanasi.

With this amount of time to travel, the urge to see it all can be strong. But half a year will pass surprisingly quickly and you’ll want to allow for spontaneity; you never know where new friends, new experiences and new hobbies might take you. It can be helpful to list your must-visit countries and cities, plus any activities or experiences you’re dying to try, and then use these as the building blocks of your trip, leaving your itchy feet room to roam as you go.

Riding motorbikes through the Indian Himalayas
Overlanding is a great way to slow down the pace of travel © Soloviova Liudmyla / Shutterstock

If you have a year to travel...

With a year at your disposal, you’ll be looking to plan a round-the-world (RTW) adventure. One way to tackle this would be to take a shorter route, like the aforementioned hippie trail, and do it slowly, padding the main itinerary with side trips. For example, from Istanbul you could fly to Egypt, see the Pyramids at Giza; in India, you could circle through the south of the country, lounge on the beaches of Goa or stay at an ashram.

Of course, not everyone wants to follow an existing trail. Many opt for an RTW plane ticket, which can be purchased for as little as $2000, allowing you to visit a half dozen or more places than a DIY trip might allow on a similar budget. If you schedule sufficient time between flights, you can book additional domestic flights to explore regions in greater depth. Alternatively, more spontaneous globetrotters may wish to book only their first flight and let the adventure dictate itself – personal preferences and comfort zones are all-important here.

A woman relaxing reading a book
Don't forget to kick back and relax during your year away © Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock

The key is breaking it down into manageable chunks; you have the luxury of time, so slow down. Allocate at least a month to each destination and consider swapping carbon-heavy flights for an overland adventure combining more leisurely modes of transport. Divide your trip into quarters or seasons, and choose a theme for each, a bit like Eat, Pray, Love. You could let loose and party hard for a few months, spend another few volunteering on an organic farm, and a few more acquiring a new skill. Having achievable, fun goals helps to avoid feeling as if you've "wasted" a year.

Amid the flurry of planning, prep and passport stamps, remember to factor in downtime. Few people can sustain the initial all-action backpacker mode for a whole year, so pencil in a week here and there just to chill out – why not treat yourself to a slightly fancier private room or apartment? And remember to build in variety, mixing urban breaks with wild escapes to keep any boredom at bay.

Volunteers working among mangroves
Volunteering can give your trip a sense of purpose © Dilok Klaisataporn / Shutterstock

If you have 18 months or more to travel…

With enough time to circumnavigate the world twice, two years is "quitting your job and hitting the road without an end destination in sight" territory. This calls for a much slower pace – consider that some people spend up to a year exploring just one large country such as China, India or the United States.

As you migrate across the globe, make a new city your temporary hometown for a while – nothing gets you under the skin of a place more than living like a local. Settle in, study a language or (finances depending) volunteer; or take time off to paint, write or simply soak up a new locale. Constantly moving can be exhausting and after a while the sights tend to blur; getting to know one place really well can be just as, or more, rewarding than ticking 100 attractions off your bucket list.

You might also like: 
Plan your next adventure with these expert tips from a Lonely Planet writer
The joys of planning a trip a (very) long way in advance
10 destinations perfect for solo travel

This article was first published January 2019 and updated December 2021

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